Books for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by learning more about the man and his mission!

January 13, 2023

An American Baptist minister and activist, Martin Luther King Jr. was the most visible leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. He is known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience. King participated in and led marches in support of the right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. He delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty, capitalism, and the Vietnam War.

Dr. King was born January 15, 1929, the same year as journalist Barbara Walters, who passed away this December, and Bob Newhart, who turns 94 this year.

In this list:



I May Not Get There With You by Michael Eric Dyson

I May Not Get There With You
The True Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael Eric Dyson

Arguing that Martin Luther King, Jr., should stand beside the Founding Fathers in terms of his significance to American history, the author serves up a compelling portrait of a personally flawed but nevertheless great leader.

Nobody Turn Me Around by Charles Euchner

Nobody Turn Me Around
A People’s History Of The 1963 March On Washington

Charles Euchner

In a book that draws on oral histories of more than 100 participants, the author offers a behind-the-scenes look at the historic 1963 March on Washington that culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, revealing Malcolm X’s secret vow to help the march, despite mocking it publicly; how King really wrote his speech; and much more.

Killing King by Stuart Wexler, Larry Hancock

Killing King
Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, And The Plot To Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr.

Stuart Wexler, Larry Hancock

Uncovers previously unknown FBI files and sources, as well as new forensics, to make the case that King was assassinated by a long-simmering conspiracy orchestrated by the racial terrorists who were responsible for the Mississippi Burning murders.

The Sword And The Shield by Peniel E Joseph

The Sword And The Shield
The Revolutionary Lives Of Malcolm X And Martin Luther King Jr.

Peniel E Joseph

This dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King upends longstanding preconceptions to transform our understanding of the twentieth century’s most iconic African American leaders.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

My Life, My Love, My Legacy

Coretta Scott King

The wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and singular 20th-century American civil rights activist presents her full life story, as told before her death to one of her closest confidants.

The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Drawing on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s unpublished writings and other materials housed in Stanford University’s archives, a civil rights scholar assembles a continuous first-person narrative of King’s life.

The Radical King by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Radical King

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Features more than 20 works, organized by theme, by the celebrated orator and civil rights champion that highlight his revolutionary vision as a democratic socialist, his opposition to the Vietnam War, his solidarity with the poor and his fight against global imperialism.

Thou, Dear God by Martin Luther King, Jr .

Thou, Dear God
Prayers That Open Hearts And Spirits

Martin Luther King, Jr .

Collects sixty-eight prayers by Martin Luther King, Jr., covering such situations as spiritual guidance, special occasions, times of adversity, times of trial, uncertain times, and social justice.

Kennedy And King by Steven Levingston

Kennedy And King
The President, The Pastor, And The Battle Over Civil Rights

Steven Levingston

A revelatory account of the contentious relationship between the 35th President and Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the tumultuous early years of the Civil Rights movement shares insights into their profound influence on one another and the important decisions that were inspired by their rivalry.

Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides

Hellhound On His Trail
The Stalking Of Martin Luther King, Jr. And The International Hunt For His Assassin

Hampton Sides

From the best-selling author of Ghost Soldiers comes a taut, intense narrative about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history.

The Civil Rights Movement

Julian Bond's Time To Teach by Julian Bond

Julian Bond’s Time To Teach
A History Of The Southern Civil Rights Movement

Julian Bond

The SNCC co-founder and civil rights professor draws on original lecture notes to explain the role of youth activism in key historical events, the unpopular and high-risk realities of disruptive movements and what today’s activists need to know.

Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

Civil Rights Queen
Constance Baker Motley And The Struggle For Equality

Tomiko Brown-Nagin

This biography of the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court examines how she played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South.

The Black Calhouns by Gail Lumet Buckley

The Black Calhouns
From Civil War To Civil Rights, With One African American Family

Gail Lumet Buckley

The daughter of actress Lena Horne traces the story of her family between two major human rights periods in America, sharing the stories of her house-slave-turned-businessman ancestor, the branches of her family that lived in the North and South and their experiences during the Jim Crow and wartime eras.

Moon U.s. Civil Rights Trail by Deborah D Douglas

Moon U.s. Civil Rights Trail
A Traveler’s Guide To The People, Places, And Events That Made The Movement

Deborah D Douglas

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail offers a vivid glimpse into the story of Black America’s fight for freedom and equality. From eye-opening landmarks to celebrations of triumph over adversity, experience a tangible piece of history.

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County
A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle

Kristen Green

A reporter, combining hard-hitting investigative journalism with a sweeping family narrative, exposes a little-known chapter of American History, revealing her hometown’s shameful legacy of refusing to integrate after the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education.

Bending Toward Justice by Doug Jones

Bending Toward Justice
The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed The Course Of Civil Rights

Doug Jones

A U.S. senator traces the decades-long legal battle to bring justice to the victims of the 1963 Birmingham bombing attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church, detailing how the case was originally closed before the surviving bombers were eventually convicted.

Deep Delta Justice by Matthew Van Meter

Deep Delta Justice
A Black Teen, His Lawyer, And Their Groundbreaking Battle For Civil Rights In The South

Matthew Van Meter

In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight. Duncan was arrested a few minutes later for the crime of putting his hand on the arm of a white child. Rather than accepting his fate, Duncan found Richard Sobol, a brilliant, 29-year-old lawyer from New York who was the only white attorney at “the most radical law firm” in New Orleans. Against them stood one of the most powerful white supremacists in the South, a man called simply “The Judge.”

Race Against Time by Jerry Mitchell

Race Against Time
A Reporter Reopens The Unsolved Murder Cases Of The Civil Rights Era

Jerry Mitchell

An award-winning investigative journalist recounts the 1964 ‘Mississippi Burning’ murders of three civil rights workers by the KKK, describing his role in reopening the case and bringing its mastermind and participating Klansmen to justice.

Waging A Good War by Thomas E Ricks

Waging A Good War
A Military History Of The Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968

Thomas E Ricks

A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter offers a fresh perspective on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its legacy today, narrating its triumphs and defeats and highlighting lesser-known figures who played critical roles in fashioning nonviolence into an effective tool.

Driving While Black by Gretchen Sorin

Driving While Black
African American Travel And The Road To Civil Rights

Gretchen Sorin

The true story behind the award-winning film of the same name explores the role of travel in civil rights, the specific impact of the automobile on African-American life and the cultural importance of Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book.

A More Beautiful And Terrible History by Jeanne Theoharis

A More Beautiful And Terrible History
The Uses And Misuses Of Civil Rights History

Jeanne Theoharis

The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded by presidents from Reagan to Obama to Trump, as proof of the power of American democracy. This fable, featuring dreamy heroes and accidental heroines, has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, whitewashed the forces that stood in its way, and diminished its scope. And it is used perniciously in our own times to chastise present-day movements and obscure contemporary injustice. In A More Beautiful and Terrible History award-winning historian Jeanne Theoharis dissects this national myth-making, teasing apart the accepted stories to show them in a strikingly different light.

Racism in Today’s World

Social Justice Parenting by Traci Baxley

Social Justice Parenting
How To Raise Compassionate, Anti-Racist, Justice-Minded Kids In An Unjust World

Traci Baxley

A professor of education who has spent 30 years teaching diversity and inclusion presents this timely guide that encourages parents to acknowledge their influence in developing compassionate, socially conscious children.

Nice Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Nice Racism
How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm

Robin DiAngelo

The author of the New York Times bestseller White Fragility writes directly to white people as a white person, identifying the many common white racial patterns and breaking down how well-intentioned white people unknowingly perpetuate racial harm.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White Fragility
Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism

Robin DiAngelo

Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and ‘allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Fleming

How To Be Less Stupid About Race
On Racism, White Supremacy, And The Racial Divide

Crystal Fleming

An essential guide to breaking through the half-truths and misconceptions that have corrupted the way race is represented in the classroom, pop culture, media and politics, this book represents a sobering and urgently needed call to action for everyone who wants to challenge white supremacy and intersectional oppression.

The Black And The Blue by Matthew Horace, Ron Harris

The Black And The Blue
A Cop Reveals The Crimes, Racism, And Injustice In America’s Law Enforcement

Matthew Horace, Ron Harris

A CNN contributor and long-time law-enforcement officer offers a personal account of the racism, crimes and color lines that challenge America’s law enforcement, sharing insights into high-profile cases, the Black Lives Matter movement and what is needed for change.

Speaking Of Race by Celeste Headlee

Speaking Of Race
Why Everybody Needs To Talk About Racism–And How To Do It

Celeste Headlee

Drawing on her experience as an award-winning journalist, and the latest research on bias, communication and neuroscience, the PBS host provides practical advice and insight for talking about race that will foster productive conversations that could bring us closer together.

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

How To Be An Antiracist

Ibram X Kendi

A best-selling author, National Book Award-winner and professor combines ethics, history, law and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.

You'll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey by Amber Ruffin, Lacey Lamar

You’ll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey
Crazy Stories About Racism

Amber Ruffin, Lacey Lamar

The writer and performer from Late Night with Seth Meyers and her sister share anecdotes about their absurd everyday experiences with racism, from being followed by security at department stores to being mistaken for prostitutes.

This Is The Fire by Don Lemon

This Is The Fire
What I Say To My Friends About Racism

Don Lemon

The host of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon is more popular than ever. As America’s only Black prime-time anchor, Lemon and his daily monologues on racism and antiracism, on the failures of the Trump administration and of so many of our leaders, and on America’s systemic flaws speak for his millions of fans. Now, in an urgent, deeply personal, riveting plea, he shows us all how deep our problems lie, and what we can do to begin to fix them.

The Sum Of Us by Heather McGhee

The Sum Of Us
What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together

Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want To Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

A Seattle-based writer, editor and speaker tackles the sensitive, hyper-charged racial landscape in current America, discussing the issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word.

How To Argue With A Racist by Adam Rutherford

How To Argue With A Racist
What Our Genes Do (And Don’t) Say About Human Difference

Adam Rutherford

How to Argue With a Racist emphatically dismantles outdated notions of race by illuminating what modern genetics actually can and can’t tell us about human difference. We now know that the racial categories still dividing us do not align with observable genetic differences. In fact, our differences are so minute that, most of all, they serve as evidence of our shared humanity.

Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

Me And White Supremacy
Combat Racism, Change The World, And Become A Good Ancestor

Layla F Saad

The host of the ‘Good Ancestor’ podcast presents an updated and expanded edition of the Instagram challenge that launched a cultural movement about taking responsibility for first-person racism to stop unconsciously inflicting pain on others.

Under The Skin by Linda Villarosa

Under The Skin
The Hidden Toll Of Racism On American Lives And The Health Of A Nation

Linda Villarosa

Drawing on real-life human stories, and offering incontrovertible proof, this dramatic, tragic and necessary book lays bare the forces in the American healthcare system and in American society that cause Black people to ‘live sicker and die quicker’ compared to their white counterparts. (social science). Simultaneous.